Everyone and everything seems to be bid-tastic at the moment.

Here at Claremont we are right in the thick of a load of important bids, not least the government’s Agile Route to Market process – a laudable initiative to open up more contracts to SMEs.

The PR behemoth that is Virgin has somehow convinced the nation that we should care that they’ve lost their bid to run a train line.

Even my local squash club wrote to me last week asking for me to back their bid to make squash an Olympic sport in 2020.

But it was a recent article by Polly Toynbee that really put the cat among the bid-geons (ahem), where she used the phrase ‘bid candy’ to describe big companies using small charities to win prime contracts under the Work Programme.

This whole ‘bid candy’ thing is becoming a major issue. In fact it was mentioned to me recently by the chief executive of a charity, who was worried about the long-term reputational risks of being used as bid candy by a large outsourcing company.

Unexpectedly it has also become a big issue for small creative agencies like Claremont.

Last week the government started the process of creating a new roster of communications agencies. The Big One. Meaning big tasks, big budgets. Exciting stuff.

So we were pretty disappointed when the guidance going with the bid process said smaller agencies should not expect to apply directly, but should approach big agencies to see if they could be a supplier to them. On first look that seems okay, but in reality it’s not okay at all.

As Claremont’s director Simon Francis last week pointed out to PR Week, we aren’t too chuffed at the idea of being big agencies’ bid candy. There’s a real risk that we’ll help them win a place on the roster then get frozen out of the meaty stuff when the contracts come up. In any case most of the big agencies aren’t up for it because they are part of corporate groups who aren’t open to working with independents.


It’s a shame. It runs against the government’s stated policy of opening up contracts to the best bids regardless of the size of company.

But… it’s not a done deal yet. Our disgruntlement has been met with a genuinely constructive response from officials. And – most importantly – we’re an ambitious company, we’re doing superb work at highly competitive rates and I have a feeling that’s what government clients are demanding right now.  Let the bids commence.